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Monday, November 5, 2018

Blue Springs

Heading south from Beaufort, SC we stopped at the new Georgia welcome center. Beth shared a box of chocolates with an old friend on a park bench.
Blue Spring State Park in Orange, Florida was our destination for the night. We had heard that it is a wonderful place to see Manatees. The ranger that checked us in said we were about a month too early for the winter influx of these homely looking mammals, but we might see one of the year-round residents.
Access to the river is well developed with stairs into the crystal clear water. Though we didn't see any manatees, there were turtles, prehistoric looking gar, and lots of fat plecostomus catfish that may had outgrown hobbyists aquariums.

Other visitors snapped our photo on the steps. Either I'm shrinking or Beth is getting taller.
This boardwalk provides good views of the "spring run."
The "spring run" meets the St Johns river at the end of the park. House boats and fishing boats passed the entrance to the park.
Walking back up the run, we found two snorkelers exploring the source of the spring. Blue Spring provides 165 million gallons of water every day. Manatees are attracted to the 72 degree water in winter months. Swimming is not allowed once the manatees arrive. You can rent yellow tubes and float 1/8 of a mile from here down to the swimming entrance.
Good sized sandy sites, separated by scrub and trees, with electricity were $27. The high temperature was 80 degrees, so we didn't even need to plug in.
Overlooking the spring run, the Thursby House has been restored. Built in 1872, it greeted steamers of tourists escaping to the warmth of Florida. The first floor has been restored to reflect the 1872-1887 period and is open for tours.

Modern bath houses had clean showers and laundry facilities.

A sign board out front offered photos of snakes to help visitors identify which need to be avoided.

Covered pontoon boats offer multiple cruises per day along the St Johns river.

Walking back along the boardwalk we saw a volunteer pointing out one of the three resident manatees to a couple in a kayak. If you find the float between the two kayaks, the shadow underneath is a manatee.

We put this park on our list to revisit later in the season.


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